Hard Times for the Competitive Player

For the competitive player, 2020 has been an interesting year. While other activities for the amateur athlete – soccer, softball, flag football, basketball, etc. – are on the downswing as their fields of play have gone silent during this “Age of COVID,” golf is seemingly experiencing a surge in popularity, as it is seen as a “safe” outdoor activity.

People who I never would have guessed would have even a casual interest in golf are picking up the game. I’ve seen golf bags in driveways of neighbors who I thought would have mocked me had they known where I worked, as though I somehow were from the moon.

A competitor tees off for the opening round of the 2020 Washington Women’s Amateur as masked spectators look on.

Golf stores and pro shops are seeing a significant uptick in the sale of beginning sets of clubs.

But for the competitive golfer, these are hard times. Events to play in are becoming increasingly rare. Tournaments are being canceled right and left. Entire schedules are being shut down. It was back in April when I received an email explaining that Scottish Golf, the organization that conducts all the competitive amateur golf championships in the Home of Golf, had canceled their entire 2020 season.

That is when I knew this was going to be bad, that 2020 would be a year like no other.

In our region, the news came out last week that the Pacific Northwest Golf Association, founded in 1899, was canceling its 2020 championship season. The only other time the PNGA had canceled their season was during World War II, when their championships were not held in 1942-44.

The PNGA’s championships for 2020 were full. More than full, they had waiting lists. Options to play competitively were so rare that the PNGA Men’s Amateur, the Association’s premier championship, had players from all over the country who had sent in an entry form.

And now, these opportunities too are gone. Poof.

With the cases of COVID on the rise, and with the PNGA’s championships drawing players from throughout the region, it was too big a risk to players, staff, volunteers, and host venues.

The heartbreak of it is that we pass this way but once – we are in the glory and strength of our youth, at the top of our game, for an all-too-brief period of time. The young players will lose a year, and a year to a teenager or to someone in their early 20s is a long time – there are many changes that occur in a year’s growth. Bodies alter. Priorities shift. School friends come and go. Graduations happen. The path of your life calls you in different directions. Time is no longer your own.

There are some local championships still happening. The Washington Women’s Amateur championships were held last week at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash. And yes, the field was full.

So there are still some opportunities still out there for the competitive player. But they are few and far between.

So revel now in your youth, and in your strength. The heartbreak of a song not sung is a heavy burden to carry into middle-and-old age. “We are but a moment’s sunlight fading in the grass.”

Tom Cade is the editor of Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, which is published by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA). He is also the senior director of communications for the PNGA and Washington Golf. From 2010-2015 he served as president of the Northwest Golf Media Association, and in 2016 received the NWGMA Distinguished Service Award. He was the editor and publisher of America’s St. Andrews, the best-selling book about Chambers Bay and the 2015 U.S. Open. He also was editor of the Centennial history book for Inglewood Golf Club (published 2019). He is a regular member of the Golf Writers Association of America.